Good Life

Arts & Antiques | Big mistake on Ebay

Every one of us has at some point found ourselves with an old bottle in our hands — some older than others. I get questions about how to tell a valuable bottle from a cheap one all the time. I wrote this article based on a cautionary tale that I heard recently.

A woman attended my antiques appraisal event in Houston, and she recounted this story about the sale of an old bottle on eBay.

She said her friend sold an old bottle on eBay for $1,200. They were thrilled about the sale until the buyer, who turned out to be a bottle dealer and the head of a national bottle collecting society, revealed that he had purchased her bottle with the winning bid.

He did not write to thank her. He wrote to boast. He had the audacity to write to the seller to tell her that she was a stupid woman. That’s what he wrote — “stupid.”

Why was she stupid? Because, he revealed, she had sold that bottle on eBay for $1,200 and he knew it was actually worth $60,000. So, this dealer added insult to the unknowing seller’s $58,800 injury. These are the kind of people that you hope get their due in a manner of the old saying “What goes around comes around.” Disgusting!

This is a perfect example of something I have been saying for many years. While I hope this story teaches you something about why some antiques dealers deserve the lousy reputations that they have, it also demonstrates something that is tremendously important about online auction websites. Online auction sellers don’t always know what they are doing.

Do not use eBay as a credible resource for researching the value of an antique. Right now, on the eBay auction record site, there is an incorrect value for that bottle. It states that the bottle is only worth $1,200 when it is actually worth $60,000. If you are researching eBay sales records and you come across that bottle, you are going to look at the photograph of the bottle and think that you have a bottle like that one and think it is only worth $1,200. But, it is actually worth more — a lot more — to the tune of $58,800 more.

This is the major problem with people who do not have experts evaluate their antiques before posting them on eBay or any online website. This is also the problem with the people who offer to search eBay records for you and sell you an online appraisal for $9.99.

I offer online appraisal services, and what they are doing is not an online appraisal. Those people are not evaluating the object; they are just searching posted online sales records that can be horribly wrong.

You would save time by just throwing $10 down a drain. There is no identification, no evaluation, no credible sales record source. It’s a mess.

The problem is that just like this seller, people are selling objects online and they do not know what they are selling, they do not know the current market or appraised value, and they do not know that there are snakes out there ready to take advantage of your ignorance. Again, do not use eBay or any online auction to determine value. Get a real appraisal — online or traditional — from an expert.